Deatrick admits guilt in plea deal
Later saying that they hope their next move is forward, Harrison County Emergency Dispatch Supervisor Deana Decker and former dispatcher Melissa Graham looked on Monday morning in Clark County Superior Court as former Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick admitted under oath to inappropriately touching and intimidating them, obstructing justice by destroying or tampering with digital recordings of the intimidation incident and filing a false insurance claim on behalf of a former corrections officer.
Deatrick, accompanied by his wife and former police chief and matron, Joyce, and daughter, Suzanne, talked only to his attorney, Bart Betteau, and Clark Superior Court Judge Vicki L. Carmichael during a hearing that lasted 25 minutes.
Deatrick’s admission was part of a plea agreement that his accusers, Decker and Graham, agreed to and told Carmichael they supported even though it didn’t include any jail time.
Deatrick, a Democrat who completed two terms as sheriff (the second term ended Dec. 31) entered guilty pleas on two counts of Class B misdemeanor battery, two counts of Class A misdemeanor intimidation, Class D felony obstruction of justice and Class D felony insurance fraud. All other charges, including felony counts of criminal deviate conduct and sexual battery, were dismissed.
‘When I met with them originally, part of our goal was to see former Sheriff Deatrick prosecuted and either indicted or plead guilty, and that’s what happened today. So, it does bring a happy conclusion to a sad story and we’re happy to see that happen here,’ Charles W. Miller, the attorney for the women in their civil trial, said. ‘He’s a convicted felon now and will be the rest of his life. As they both said to the judge, the most important thing was to hear him admit to these acts … because their integrity was in question throughout this by Mr. Deatrick, his attorney, their family, and I think that lays to rest any question about their allegations against Mike Deatrick.’
Later, at a press conference at Miller’s office overlooking the Ohio River in Louisville, Decker and Graham said they would have liked to have had an apology from their former boss but knew that would never come.
‘Having the judge and the prosecutor read the details and him to say that it happened, that, for me, was a slam dunk,’ Graham said.
‘He thought he was above the law and that’s the beauty of today,’ Decker said. ‘He thought he was the god of Harrison County, and now he’s been put in his place.’
Deatrick, 66, will have to serve 548 days of home incarceration. According to Ryan MacGregor, Clark County’s director of community corrections, Deatrick can only leave his home to go to medical appointments and to church. Deatrick is required to document his travels and bring them to Jeffersonville once a week. If Deatrick’s paperwork and data stored on his GPS-enabled ankle-bracelet don’t match up, he will be in violation of his home incarceration and a warrant could be issued for his arrest in as little as 24 hours.
‘He can go to the doctor or church services and have those visits documented, but he couldn’t swing by Tumbleweed or somewhere on his way home and pick up dinner. We can even track how fast he’s driving,’ MacGregor said. ‘Ultimately, his home detention officer will be in charge of setting it up, but he would even be required to work out a schedule to do an hour or two of yard work. Home incarceration means you are required to stay in your home, and documentation is the name of our program. He’ll have to abide by strict documentation guidelines throughout the incarceration period.’
Deatrick also has to pay a $100 start-up fee and a monthly charge for Clark County’s home incarceration program.
Special prosecutor Nancy Jacobs said, as with every case, there are strengths and weaknesses and the one thing she could never guarantee the victims of a crime is the outcome of a jury trial, which is part of the reason why the State entered into the plea agreement.
‘I cannot guarantee a guilty verdict. And these women, who were courageous enough to stand up and say this man, in a position of authority, did these things to (them) were my most important concerns,’ she said. ‘I’ve been in public service a long time, and I know there are going to be people out there who don’t agree with (no jail time), but I have two obligations. One is to enforce the Constitution and the other is a moral obligation to try to do what is right. And in working with Deana Decker and Melissa Graham ‘ two women who I personally admire ‘ I believe we’ve done what’s right.
‘When it came down to it, hearing Mike Deatrick admit that he did the things that Melissa Graham and Deana Decker said he did was my most important consideration and their most important consideration,’ she said.
Jacobs also said that with the agreement Deatrick cannot appeal his convictions and Monday’s events close the door on a ‘nasty period for Harrison County.’
‘I know that if they had been my daughter, or my sister, or my friend, I would have wanted a prosecutor who would have taken their feelings into consideration,’ Jacobs said, ‘and that’s what I tried to do here.’
Miller said that no one besides Graham and Decker were ‘willing to face off against this rogue with a badge.
‘They really brought a lot of change to Harrison County in a lot of ways, and I think they should be looked at as heroes by the citizens of Harrison County,’ he said. ‘I’m very proud of them.’
Deatrick’s attorney, Bart Betteau, said Monday was a tough day for his client.
‘These last few weeks, he’s been doing a lot of soul searching, been talking to his family a great deal, been talking to those who care for him,’ Betteau said. ‘Mike is very remorseful as to the implications of this case … Mike is remorseful … not only remorseful to the people of Harrison County, but anybody else that may have been injured by this.’
Betteau said, in essence, he thinks Deatrick believes he apologized to Decker and Graham by entering the plea agreement. He also said he supported Deatrick’s decision to not step down from his position even after he was charged in April of last year.
A special grand jury was convened in early November 2009 then spent six days later in the month and in early December reviewing evidence from an Indiana State Police investigation that began in 2008. That’s when Decker alleged that, during the course of several years, she had been continually sexually harassed by Deatrick, who allegedly grabbed her breasts ‘on numerous occasions’ in addition to making sexually derogatory comments. Decker also alleged that Deatrick put his hand down her pants and touched her inappropriately.
A second complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the same date of that year, May 6, by Graham, alleged Deatrick left Graham sexually derogatory messages on her cell phone on numerous occasions in addition to making comments about her breasts.
(Graham and Decker didn’t file a formal complaint with former Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd until June 2 and 3, respectively).
The accusations led to a federal lawsuit filed with the EEOC, which was later settled for $375,500. The settlement required the sheriff and his deputies and corrections officers, including both full- and part-time employees, to attend training to ensure the sheriff’s department avoided sexual harassment.
The two women then alleged that days after the EEOC allegations came out, Deatrick and his wife, who was then matron, showed up at the Harrison County Justice Center one evening and that the sheriff held a handgun while looking at them in a threatening manner through a window that separated the dispatch office from the main lobby of the justice center.
According to former corrections officer Nathan Simpson, who was indicted with Deatrick on obstruction of justice and false reporting and informing, he and former jail commander Christine Britton, who committed suicide in November 2009, made a DVD copy of security camera images captured at the jail, including ones the day Deatrick threatened the two dispatchers.
Simpson said his involvement was taking former Harrison County Sheriff’s Department reserve officer James Claybrooke to a computer room where the DVD and VCR recorders were located, downloading the files onto a DVD, then placing the DVD in an envelope and sliding it under Christine Britton’s office door.
Simpson said the copying process took seven hours and that he was able to view some of the images captured, which included the sheriff and his wife arriving at the justice center in a county-owned Chevrolet Suburban then leaving. He added that because the copying process took so long, he didn’t view any other images.
Simpson said Britton asked him to allow representatives from Dahlman Inc. access to the computer room where the images were stored, and he was to copy a certain set of cameras with a certain date and time to put on an external hard drive.
He initially said he made a complete copy, including all cameras, when first interviewed by David Mitchell of the ISP; however, he called Mitchell later and said that he hadn’t been truthful. He said he only made a copy of a certain camera and not all cameras.
Simpson, who pled guilty to misdemeanor false informing as part of a plea agreement in June, said the camera copied was that which showed the lobby and dispatch area.
The other person indicted with Deatrick and Simpson, former corrections officer Dee Walden, has a pre-trial conference scheduled for Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. in Harrison Superior Court.
At Monday’s hearing, Deatrick admitted to causing a worker’s compensation claim to be submitted on behalf of Walden, knowing that her injuries were not work related. Walden was charged with Class D felony insurance fraud.
Deatrick is the third sheriff from Harrison County who has been arrested in the past three decades.
Leonard McAfee, who was indicted in June 1985, was arrested on charges of theft, conspiracy, conversion and three counts of official misconduct. In March 1986, he made a plea agreement to a single charge of official misconduct.
With 12 days left in his term, a grand jury indicted William Heishman on three counts of theft and six counts of criminal conversion in December 1982. He eventually pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal conversion for mishandling jail bonds.
Timeline of events
May 5 ‘ Harrison County dispatch supervisor Deana Decker and dispatcher Melissa Graham file claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick touched them inappropriately and made lewd remarks.
May 12 ‘ Decker and Graham allege that after hours, Deatrick and his wife, then matron, Joyce, showed up at the justice center. They allege that Deatrick, who was not in uniform at the time, brandished an unholstered firearm and looked at them in a threatening manner through a window to the dispatch center.
June 2 ‘ Graham submits a written complaint against Deatrick with Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd.
June 3 ‘ Decker submits a written complaint against Deatrick with Byrd; Byrd requests Indiana State Police to investigate claims against the sheriff.
June 11 ‘ ISP Det. David Mitchell assigned to the case.
July 28 ‘ ISP files report with Byrd’s office alleging possible criminal conduct by Deatrick.
July 29 ‘ Byrd asks Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis for a special prosecutor to avoid the appearance of impropriety and/or a conflict of interest.
Aug. 4 ‘ Davis appoints Nancy Jacobs, who at the time was the chief deputy prosecutor in Scott County, as special prosecutor.
Aug. 19 ‘ Mitchell uses search warrant to acquire videotaped evidence from the justice center that may substantiate the dispatchers’ claims from the May 12 incident.
Oct. 16 ‘ EEOC releases its findings that it believes violations occurred, which would allow a federal civil lawsuit to proceed at the U.S. District Court in New Albany.
Dec. 15 and 16 ‘ Witness and exhibit lists filed with federal court, naming nearly 70 individuals, most who are employed at the justice center or who are friends of employees.
March 5 ‘ Feds sue Deatrick, current and former Harrison County commissioners and county council, alleging civil rights of Decker and Graham were violated and created a hostile work environment. The women’s lawyer, Charles W. Miller, said they were seeking $6.25 million in damages if the suit went to trial; however, he offered to settle for $2.5 million for Decker and $2 million for Graham.
March 29 ‘ Former Harrison County Jail commander Christine Britton dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound. Though not accused of any wrongdoing, she was mentioned in a search warrant affidavit submitted more than a week earlier in the sheriff’s sexual harassment and intimidation case.
April 4 ‘ Deatrick suffers heart attack. In his absence, then-Chief Eric Fischer heads the sheriff’s department.
June 15 ‘ Federal civil suit settled, with Decker and Graham to split $375,500. In addition to monetary damages, full- and part-time employees of the sheriff’s department ordered to undergo EEOC training to prevent further sexual harassment.
Aug. 25 ‘ Davis signs court order allowing Jacobs to convene a grand jury on Oct. 30. Besides Deatrick, the investigation was expanded to include other anonymous individuals. Jacobs believes the investigation revealed ‘potentially criminal conduct by individual(s) other than’ Sheriff Deatrick.
Sept. 10 ‘ Sheriff’s department employees undergo first round of EEOC training. Another round will take place in September 2010 and May 2011.
Oct. 6 ‘ County commissioner Terry L. Miller submits letter to Deatrick calling for his resignation.
Oct. 30 ‘ A list of 16 witnesses scheduled to appear before the grand jury is released.
Nov. 23, 24, 25 and 30 ‘ A special grand jury made up of five men and one woman, as well as one male alternate, is selected. The grand jury will meet again Dec. 2 and 4. Also, Harrison County Jail Commander Nathan Simpson, who was previously named as a witness in the now-settled federal case against Deatrick, could be the focus of another investigation. Jacobs said in court that the case against the sheriff will include the destruction of evidence, including destruction of evidence by Simpson.
March 30 and 31 ‘ Deatrick appears before grand jury.
April 1 ‘ Deatrick and Dee Walden indicted in Harrison Superior Court then released on bond.
April 2 ‘ Simpson turns himself in and bonds out.
April 22 ‘ Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis recuses himself.
June 3 ‘ Indiana Supreme Court appoints Clark County Superior Court Judge Vicki Carmichael as special judge.
Jan. 25 ‘ Change of venue granted, moved to Clark County Superior Court.
June 1 ‘ During a pre-trial conference, Simpson enters into plea agreement and answers questions about Deatrick’s case when questioned by Judge Davis.
Aug. 17 ‘ Jacobs and Deatrick’s attorney, Bart Betteau, advise the court they have reached a plea agreement in Deatrick’s case.
Aug. 22 ‘ Court accepts Deatrick’s plea of guilty to two counts of battery, two counts of intimidation, insurance fraud and obstruction of justice.